January is human trafficking awareness month and like many other Victim Service sites across the province, we are busy building our own Human Trafficking programming in order to provide specialized front-line response, on-going support and public education to our community partners so that all of us are better equipped to recognize the signs when we see them.
One of the many things we have learned about are common recruitment tactics. Below are a few of the more common tactics used to trap victims into a life of slavery.
The Loving New Boyfriend
Imagine a young female, sexually abused as a child but never provided with proper supports or counseling. Family blames her for telling (or maybe she never told anyone) and she lives with no real connection or attachment to a healthy adult. She meets a new boyfriend. Her last one was not very nice and would call her names, call her fat, tell her she was ugly and no one would ever love her, fool around on her. This new boyfriend, he tells her all the time how beautiful she is, how much he loves her, how he has never loved anyone as much as he loves her. He pays attention to her and can you imagine, they have so much in common!
This is a grooming process, not much different than one you would find in many abusive relationships. A trafficker invests time and energy and sometimes money into the typically young person that they are looking to trap. They are charming, they pay a lot of attention, they often demonstrate a loving boyfriend who understands them, demands love in return but will often put conditions on it in order to try to convince the victim to start engaging in behaviours that will trap them. “If you love me, you will do this for me” is not uncommon. Once the victim agrees to anything, she is trapped and with no healthy strong attachments to a loving adult, there isn’t anything to pull her back.
The False Friend
Imagine not feeling good enough, maybe not really having many friends or not feeling like you fit in. Imagine getting in trouble all the time and struggling to find where you fit with your family (if you have one) and your community. But then you meet this cool new friend. She’s a little older and she’s got it all happening. She’s pretty, she’s smart, she’s happening and she has decided that you’re her new best friend. And, she can trust you! And needs you. No one has ever really needed you before let alone paid you attention. She’s promising you a whole new life. You’ll be able to buy all the new clothes you want and have all the things you want and can’t get right now.
Some recruiters are human trafficking victims who have been sex workers for some time with this particular trafficker or pimp. They often have more privileges than the other victims and by becoming a recruiter, they are given the only opportunity to actually get out of the sex trade. This is another form of recruitment and exploitation. These recruiters will often befriend a vulnerable person or act as an agent or intermediary of some kind and work to gain the trust of the victim. This trust is misguided and the victim is then put into positions where they have to repay or feel obligated to ‘do a favour’ for the friend that leads into becoming trapped.
The False Job Advertisement
I remember not that long ago a series of ads for models wanted for a sporting event in another part of the country. As it turns out, the ads were not for a legitimate company and it appears that young girls being offered modeling jobs were finding out that the job was in fact not what they were expecting and involved sexual behaviour. These fake job recruiters will often reach out to someone who might appear vulnerable in person or online and actively recruit them for modeling, television or possibly domestic or service jobs. Sometimes the jobs are in different countries with a different language making it extremely difficult to escape and return home but sometimes, like the modeling ad out west, the individual is put into uncompromising positions and then blackmailed or convinced they have to work off money if their travel costs were covered.
There are many intricate elements that come together to create a human trafficking scenario. Common elements include vulnerable victims, manipulation, control, threats and abuse and a feeling like you have no other option or choice. While we’re funded for intervention, our hope is that the more we learn the more we can pass along to help create prevention programs along the way to combat this issue from multiple levels at once.
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